To obtain Judicial information through mechanism provided under High Court Rules, provisions of RTI Act not apply
ABCAUS Case Law Citation:
ABCAUS 3283 (2020) (03) SC
Important case law relied upon by the parties:
Central Public Information Officer, Supreme Court of India v. Subhash Chandra Agrawal 2019 (16) SCALE 40
Raj Kumar Yadav v. Samir Kumar Maha seth and Others (2005) 3 SCC 601
Institute of Chartered Accountants of India v. Shaunak H. Satya and Others (2011) 8 SCC 781,
Institute of Companies Secretaries of India v. Paras Jain2019 SCC Online SC 764
India v. RS Misra (2017) 244 DLT 179
In the instant case, the point which fall for determination was as regards the right of a third party to apply for certified copies to be obtained from the High Court by invoking the provisions of Right to Information Act without resorting to Rules prescribed by the High Court.
An RTI application was filed by the respondent seeking information pertaining to the few cases along with all relevant documents and certified copies. In reply, the Public Information Officer (PIO) of the High Court informed that for obtaining required copies, the respondent should make an application personally or through his advocate on affixing court fees stamp. It was further stated that as the respondent was not a party to the said proceedings, as per High Court Rules his application should be accompanied by an affidavit stating the grounds for which the certified copies were required and on making such application.
Being aggrieved, the respondent preferred Appeal before the Appellate Authority-Registrar Administration u/s 19 of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act).The appeal was dismissed on the ground that for obtaining certified copies, the alternative efficacious remedy was already available under the High Court Rules and that under the provisions of RTI Act, no certified copies can be provided.
The respondent filed the second appeal before the Appellant-Chief Information Commissioner. The High Court stated that the Public Information Officer cannot be compelled to breach the High Court Rules and hence the appeal was liable to be dismissed. However, the appellant-Chief Information Commissioner vide directed PIO of the High Court to provide the information sought.
The Hon’ble High Court held that when a particular field is governed by the rules which are not declared ultra-vires, then there is no question of applying the fresh rules and make the situation confusing. The High Court held that in the light of the High Court Rules, certified copies may be given on payment of charges as per the Rules and also the applicant has to file an affidavit disclosing the purpose for which the certified copies are required and there is no question of making an application under the RTI Act.
The Division Bench set aside the order of the Chief Information Commissioner by observing that when a copy is demanded by any person, the same has to be in accordance with the Rules of the High Court on the subject.
The Hon’ble Supreme Courtin view of the importance of the matter, requested the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) to appear as amicus curiae to assist the Court. The ASG collected information from all the High Courts and filed a compilation of the information obtained by him about the Rules framed by various High Courts in exercise of their power under Article 225 of the Constitution of India and under Section 28 of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
The learned amicus submitted that there is no inconsistency between the RTI Act and the Rules framed by the High Court so as to furnish information. It was also submitted that although Section 22 of the RTI Act has an overriding effect over any other laws, in case there are inconsistencies, Section 22 of the RTI Act does not contemplate to override those legislations which also aim to ensure access to information. The information on the administrative side of the High Court, can be accessed to such information could be had through the Rules framed by the various High Courts and the Rules framed under the RTI Act by the High Courts.
He submitted that High Courts have taken a consistent view that the information can be accessed through the mechanism provided under the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 and the High Court Rules and once any information can be accessed through the mechanism provided under the Statute or the Rules framed, the provisions of the RTI Act cannot be resorted to.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court framed the following points for consideration :-
(i) Whether Rule of the High Court stipulating that for providing copy of documents to the third parties, the applicant was required to file an affidavit stating the reasons for seeking certified copies, suffered from any inconsistency with the provisions of RTI Act?
(ii) When there are two machineries to provide information/certified copies – one under the High Court Rules and another under the RTI Act, in the absence of any inconsistency in the High Court Rules, whether the provisions of RTI Act can be resorted to for obtaining certified copy/information?
To obtain Judicial information from High Courts, provisions of RTI Act not apply
After going through the provisions of RTI Act, relevant Articles of the Constitution and judgments on the subject concluded that:
(a) The High Court Rules stipulating a third party to have access to the information/obtaining the certified copies of the documents or orders requires to file an application/affidavit stating the reasons for seeking the information, is not inconsistent with the provisions of the RTI Act; but merely lays down a different procedure as the practice or payment of fees, etc. for obtaining information. In the absence of inherent inconsistency between the provisions of the RTI Act and other law, overriding effect of RTI Act would not apply.
(b) The information to be accessed/certified copies on the judicial side to be obtained through the mechanism provided under the High Court Rules, the provisions of the RTI Act shall not be resorted to.
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